SITG Book Review by Manish Dhawan.

SITG Review

Review By Manish Dhawan

There was a lot of talk about this book on social media before I started reading it. Incidentally Taleb did not promote it in a conventional way and yet the kind of buzz it had was unprecedented.

It is difficult to pin point what makes a book best seller, but to me it appears that negative publicity from a generic, no good, institutionalized newspaper or website is among the best ways available.


I loved this book. All the critics and negative feedback I heard before I started reading was either agenda driven or simply the fact that people don’t like Taleb’s guts. (Personal remarks like he is rude, curt and arrogant, no mention on the point he is raising).


Why do we need this book. What utility does it serve.


We need it to spot baloney or as Taleb calls it bull shit.


Skin in the game, applied as a rule, reduces the effects of the following divergences that grew with civilization: those between action and cheap talk (tawk), consequence and intention, practice and theory, honor and reputation, expertise and charlatanism, concrete and abstract, ethical and legal, genuine and cosmetic, merchant and bureaucrat, entrepreneur and chief executive, strength and display, love and gold-digging, Coventry and Brussels, Omaha and Washington, D.C., human beings and economists, authors and editors, scholarship and academia, democracy and governance, science and scientism, politics and politicians, love and money, the spirit and the letter, Cato the Elder and Barack Obama, quality and advertising, commitment and signaling, and, centrally, collective and individual”


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 6). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition



Through these wide set of examples, Taleb helps you create a mental model to spot baloney. To develop that skeptical bone and ability to distinguish chaff from the wheat


On the negative side, when people with No skin in the game, academicians with no touch of reality are the policy makers, shit would happen.

These are the same set of jokers who reared moderate rebels to fight USSR not realizing the repercussions which resulted in them becoming al Qaida and later Rogering USA in 9/11

It happened in India too, Mrs Gandhi raised an army of rebels (led by bhindrawala) to fight and check the rise of Sikhs, not realizing that you have to be an IYI to expect loyalty from reared snakes

If you have seen that documentary on amazon prime about IRAN, you would realize that Taleb is SPOT ON. People at the ground level with significant skin in the game were aware that PAKISTAN is the root cause of all shit, but THINK TANK with its POLICY decided to ignore. As a result, as it turned out A.Q khan basically sold the world peace for his personal gain providing nuclear weapons to countries as far and wide from Iran to Korea.


According to Taleb, Reason why Academicians screw it up is 3 fold

“Their three flaws: 1) they think in statics not dynamics, 2) they think in low, not high, dimensions, 3) they think in terms of actions, never interactions”


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 9). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


And he brought home the point that real learning happens through pain. Tinkering.

Pathematha Mathemata. Learning through pain.

This reminds me of psychology coach that was introduced to our cricket training.

He would bullshit us on being meditative and spiritual about the next ball after receiving a hostile bouncer. That is all academic mumbo jumbo. One hit of a leather ball close to your temple (even with helmet on) and you quickly realize that rationality and courage and guts and glory are like hollow meaningless words of non practicing losers.

Tinkering is the way out and the only way out. Once you have seen enuf times and taken enough hits, you start getting the hang of it. You start getting your balance back and slow down in your reactions to the next ball.


The same theory idiots BTW would then write books about you, how well you handle the short ball. And you have inherent talent to read the line early or worse read the mind of the bowlers.


In a nutshell like his other books, SITG basically instills in his readers an ability to conduct a skeptical inquiry to a given verdict.


Any new development needs to be taken with a pinch of salt if it is replacing the existing workable natural model.

Margarine Vs butter. The science idiots would have you believe that they have found the solution but their research is “PEER REVIEWED and does not pass the rigor of actual SCIENCE.

Because due to perverse incentives they are only looking at first level cause and effect instead of realizing the complex nature of variability involved. Sure Margarine or any other man made shit reduces cholesterol (again even that is debatable if less cholesterol is a good thing) but it does that for a cost which has not even been calculated or deemed necessary to inquire.


Another heuristic

when you are rewarded for perception, not results, you need to show sophistication. Anyone who has submitted a “scholarly” paper to a journal knows that you usually raise the odds of acceptance by making it more complicated than necessary. Further, there are side effects for problems that grow nonlinearly with such branching-out complications. Worse: Non-skin-in-the-game people don’t get simplicity.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (pp. 29–30). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


SITG base system will always be simple sans any complexity and complications.

Best example of this is the talking heads on business channels. They are NOT paid for accuracy but word smithery.

If you take out their past recordings and run a backtest, you would be shell shocked how quickly you would have gone bankrupt if you had followed their advice. But that doesn’t stop them from coming on TV. For No skin in the game joker knows that the judgement is done on his looks, his confidence, his style of speaking, his oration, complexity, (pseudo) understanding of the industry and macro bullshit.


Contrast that with a trend follower who simply tells the audience, I buy what goes up, sell what goes down while maintaining robust money management.


Too simple and too boring for TV, isn’t it.

Advice mixed with sales is Nuts mixed with Turd.

Avoid at all costs those who call you to tout a certain product disguised with advice. “giving advice” as a sales pitch is fundamentally unethical — selling cannot be deemed advice.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 54). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Investor education by this definition is nothing more than virtue signalling charade and mutual funds promoting it are UNETHICAL because they shove their products in its anvil.

Think about it, You cannot say #mutualfundsahihai and Investor education in the same sentence. there is a conflict of interest, and if you don’t see it, well that means your salary depends on not seeing it.


Taleb sites an example from his trading days saying they had a bro code among fellow traders about not to rip each other off but it was OK to find a patsie elsewhere.

At least 2 me, this amounts 2 hypocrisy. But he is absolutely correct, it exists. U don’t feel the guilt by ripping a stranger. It is actually a matter of spiritual evolution. Taleb doesn’t agree, he says these things don’t scale well.

Abstract becomes 2 abstract and u become this torch bearer of hollow principles.

If it was not for Sardar patel, such abstract principles would have resulted in 20 independent nations.


Minority rule.

I already covered this topic here

Another beautiful thing I picked up from Talebs book is that

History is written by winners, so don’t give a shit 2 it.

Try and do an analyses independently.

Christ was not crucified because he was some god or something.

He, just like muslims were a stubborn minority

The “persecution” of the Christians had vastly more to do with the intolerance of the Christians for the pantheon of local gods than the reverse.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 81). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


Purely monotheistic religions such as Protestant Christianity, Salafi Islam, or fundamentalist atheism accommodate literalist and mediocre minds that cannot handle ambiguity.


Strong and controversial statement and absolutely spot on.

I may be biased with a small sample size, but it is a truth for me. These set of religions (including atheists) do not understand ambiguity and give blanket statements and derive literal meaning out of texts and conversations. #idiots


The psychological experiments on individuals showing “biases” do not allow us to automatically understand aggregates or collective behavior, nor do they enlighten us about the behavior of groups.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 89). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

This is something I picked up intuitively; I am surprised the famous and successful social scientists miss it.

On twitter poll that I keep conducting, I clearly know that answers mean NOTHING!!!!!

The answer of audience would change based on host factors.

Factor 1) is it anonymous

Factor 2) is the survey conducted in isolation or in a group.

With each factor, the dynamic changes and so does his/her answer and therefore any “Biases” inference you draw would be Stupid.

Besides, it does not matter what they think, coz it may have nothing to do with what they do!!

Taleb takes this further and says, forgetting scale is another BIG mistake

A group of 2 is not same as group of 10. And 10 is not same as 300.

U cannot draw a conclusion taken from 1 and paste it on all. But thats is what Psychologists do.

This also explains Taleb Vs Sam Harris.

Understanding how the subparts of the brain (say, neurons) work will never allow us to understand how the brain works.

Understanding the genetic makeup of a unit will never allow us to understand the behavior of the unit itself.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 90). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


The reason is simple as mentioned above. How they interact with each other adds up complexity which is beyond any computer.

Its like a Hubble scope, u move an inch, and find yourself in a different planet.

By the way Dr Hegde’s entire life work is based on the above principle and why he thinks that Allopathy fails miserably when it comes to chronic diseases.



A word on Richard Dawkins.

I had an interesting conversation with their charity institute and again like grammar is the death of language, their obsessive finding literal meaning out of religious texts and mocking them is nothing short of STUPID.



Similarly fasting has its inherent benefits, and religions the world over enforce them with dogmas and doctrines.

Science is finally catching upto it,

But these fundamental atheists were simply mocking it for being orthodox and irrational and vague and stupid not realizing that it is a metaphor and has (might have) hidden practical genius behind it.

Side note: Read Swami Parthasarthy book on rituals and its actual meaning to save yourself from Dawkins and other rational jokers.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Richard Dawkins for he saves a lot of people from falling prey to the dogma and charade of religious charlatans.

But problem is, he takes it too far and is at the other end of the pendulum and hence suffers from the same problem on the flip side.

He would pick examples from religious texts, quote them out of context and without in depth knowledge, pass a judgement.

A typical grammar fool.

Just because current set of jokers heading religion are assholes does not mean religion has no meaning and place.


Just like religious fanatics are assholes, similarly atheists selling their agenda are nincompoops.

Fuck u money = Being a beggar.

Another interesting thing I picked from the book is the fact that u can be FREE either by having Fuck u money or by being a beggar.

U see wen u don’t have the wants, u don’t need the means and the dependence ends right there.

So monks = people with fuck u money.

Someone who has been employed for a while is giving you strong evidence of submission. Evidence of submission is displayed by the employee’s going through years depriving himself of his personal freedom for nine hours every day, his ritualistic and punctual arrival at an office, his denying himself his own schedule, and his not having beaten up anyone on the way back home after a bad day. He is an obedient, housebroken dog.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 98). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.



This may come across as rude, but once again Taleb baba is spot on. In fact with little practice u can easily spot an entrepreneur Vs a salaried employee.

I can easily tell the difference between a businessman and a salaried guy. My dad looked, behaved differently than my uncle.

Years of slavery has a telling effect on ones personality, u become docile, obedient, non dreamer, boring, mundane, pessimistic loser.

I know I am probably exaggerating but I am a Taleb fan remember.;)

A company man: I have seen this in Tata group. There is a specific demeanor in the way they carry themselves, their talk, walk and every shit is measured.

I am not commenting on its good or bad, just saying that the culture gets embedded in ur personality.

Company man is replaced by company person. I agree with Taleb again.

In MNCs in India, employees are just fucking numbers.

Even the “Employee engagement” is a charade to make the slaves feel like humans once in a while.

Lol 😉

I still remember Amex management contemplating to revoke my intranet blog access because I was instilling a sense of individuality among my fellow sheeps.

Freedom is not good for business. And they would do anything to ensure that sheeps are kept under check. Same applies in religion. Its a herd of yes men with no independent thinker.

Celibacy was instilled among the most free, the monks and saints

U see, if u have a family, and kids and ailing parents, you CANNOT be free. Your decisions are clouded by emotions for well being of your family. If u r a salaried employee with dependents, u can bid good bye to ever taking stand for what you stand for.

Ethics is a luxury of the free, not slaves.

Death is not Enough

During my last visit to kashmir, I spoke with a driver whose brother was a terrorist.

Yes, A terrorist. It is a JOB there.

And guess what, his parents were more proud of the terrorist son than this driver.

WHY?? You ask

He was drawing a better salary, had a hero status, was assured a windfall to family after death.

Death is not a downside for a mother fucker who is going to kill ¯100 people. That is not eye for an eye.

To instill a proper Hammurabi’s code on him, it is important that he realize that his parents would be killed or ridiculed in public if he gets into terrorism crap.

India has so much to learn from Israel.



Actual Vs Virtual

Philosophers, unlike the equally argumentative but vastly more sophisticated (and more colorfully dressed) bishops, don’t get the point with their experience machine thought experiment. The procedure is as follows. Simply, you sit in an apparatus and a technician plugs a few cables into your brain, after which you undergo an “experience.” You feel exactly as if an event took place, except that it all happened in virtual reality; it was all mental. Alas, such an experience will never be in the same category as the real — only an academic philosopher who never took risk can believe such nonsense. Why?

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 121). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Once again I agree with Taleb, 100%

I have experienced sky diving and virtual skydiving both. While virtual sky diving was almost a real experience but IT WAS NOT.

You know what was missing.


Wen I was jumping from that fucking plane, my face captured that fear of the unknown, that feeling of finally letting go the illusion of control. The hidden fact behind the act that it can (low probability) but still can be fatal.

In virtual reality sky dive, I know it feels real but no real shit is happening to me.

If you do not undertake a risk of real harm, reparable or even potentially irreparable, from an adventure, it is not an adventure.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 121). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

More On IYI

The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests,


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 124). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


All mutual fund sellers shoving a product which is toxic (70–80% drawdowns) teaching the world how to be rational thinkers fall in this category.

Typically, the IYI get first-order logic right, but not second-order (or higher) effects, making him totally incompetent in complex domains.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 125). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


So they can converse in a social gathering about biases and all jazz, but if you look at their PnL, they are not beating nifty, sometimes not even FD

IYI is that idiot who would luk at a grammatical error in otherwise life changing statement.

TO CONCLUDE The Intellectual Yet Idiot knows at any given point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 127). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


This is profound, I exactly know such people in my life. Such an easy and beautiful heuristic to spot baloney bastards.

It is an awesome description. It is so unadulterated that I now know exactly all the IYI in my life and circle.

I always despised them, there is an air of crap about them, you know the JNU types, flag bearers of democracy, equality, justice, those liberal idiots or those patriotic buffoons. I didn’t know the reason earlier, now I can articulate it exactly. It’s a breed of people, and taleb has spotted and exposed them in this book.

It doesn’t take long to spot them, its like they cannot hide their crap, the smell gives it away. Typical lutyen, rent seeking bastards with an inherent sense of entitlement.

True Capitalism

The way to make society more equal is by forcing (through skin in the game) the rich to be subjected to the risk of exiting from the 1 percent.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 131). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

A direct hit on crony capitalism.

A live example is company tie up with Big Toy marketing company for selling toys at 20x price while govt banning the import of toys, decimating the industry and competition.

Rich would remain rich because they kill the competition via regulation and bureaucracy

You don’t do science by science.

This is majestic stuff from Taleb. Once again the practical applicability of the statement is profound.

I know this because as a member of the Investor Youth club, I have heard the conversations of these funded start-ups.

They are not interested in solving any customer problem, the entire bandwidth is used on how to impress the VC. It is a bigger fool theory playing out. The entire emphasis is on creating a narrative so much so that even the pics they are clicking of themselves and posting on social media is part of the agenda, an image, a persona, a charade.

Microsoft, google, amazon all of them would have died if they were playing this start-up VC game.

A research group funded for a specific find is an oxymoron. You have killed spontaneity and any chance of serendipity to manifest by putting a mandate on it. (majority of scientific discoveries are accidents)

I teach my kid Zohan, and feel frustrated and pissed to see the curriculum. We are just simply preparing copy paste specialists who are good at cramming and parroting (business process outsourcing).

No originality, no sense of inquiry, death of curiosity, no question of genuine research.


Lack of skin in the game is the reason mutual funds have a product which is TOXIC.

They hide behind psychological biases mumbo jumbo thaler-giri and expect their clients to be STOICS when the portfolio crashes 70–80%

That is BOB RUBIN trade. Take crazy risks, heads they show amazing alpha, tails clients can go fuck themselves.

Here mark my words, If I don’t have 2 worry/care about downside risk, I can code systems which can NAIL the market. As in 3X the benchmarks.

But unfortunately I have to take care of the downside coz its MY OWN MONEY AT STAKE.

Let the fund manager have 80% of his net worth in the fund he is managing. You will be shocked and surprised to see how his decision making will change on its fucking head and how often he will start taking cash calls.

And how quickly he would realize that warren buffet and Richard Thaler quotes are just that, quotes.

Just as the slick fellow in a Ferrari looks richer than the rumpled centimillionaire, scientism looks more scientific than real science. True intellect should not appear to be intellectual.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 160). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

As I read along, I am becoming more and more impressed by Taleb’s uncanny ability to provide such easy heuristics to spot baloney.

Shashi tharoor, An IVY league degree, shakespearean English, impeccable manners, love for democracy and liberal outlook fits the bill here.

He epitomizes intellectualism and therefore is far from it.

I still remember a debate between him and late Christopher Hitchens where his charade of freedom of speech came 2 fore.



Harvard is like a Vuitton bag and a Cartier watch. It is a huge drag on the middle class


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 164). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Once again this is SPOT ON.

During my tenure at NAI Global, I worked with a lot of interns from various colleges and I noticed that IIM pass outs come with an attitude problem.

Its not very pronounced, but its definitely there. Ask any HR dept of a small company (not big company, because there every one would be from IVY league)

and they would tell you, these kids come with some entitlement issues.

Things appear maximally sophisticated and scientific — but remember that what looks scientific is usually scientism, not science.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 166). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

While selecting school for zohan, I did the running around and spoke with 9th-10th standard students of various schools in Delhi.

All that glitters in Not gold was my conclusion.

You see, these charade places like GD Goenka would do all kind of “Nautanki” by sending their kids to NASA for a science trip but the end product (kids) I am afraid are not better, than any other decent school in town.

Terrorist Vs Martyr.

As I am writing these lines, people discuss terrorism and terrorist groups while making severe category mistakes; there are in fact two totally distinct varieties. The first group are terrorists for about everyone, that is, for every person equipped with the ability to discern and isn’t a resident of Saudi Arabia and doesn’t work for a think tank funded by sheikhs; the second are militia groups largely called terrorists by their enemies, and “resistance” or “freedom fighters” by those who don’t dislike them. The first includes nonsoldiers who indiscriminately kill civilians for effect and don’t bother with military targets, as their aim isn’t to make military gains,


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 173). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


Once again a beautiful heuristic to spot The difference.

This paragraph beautifully differentiates between Che Guevara and muslim fanatics in Kashmir.

While Che was ethical, high on integrity soldier fighting the regime and attacking the military. A typical terrorist is a money slave attacking the civilians.

Our Country’s plight

You can pretty much tell the state of the country by judging how they treat IYIs and actual skin in the game practitioners.

See the actual fighters in the Indian struggle for independence, died for a cause. They put their life at stake and paid the ultimate price.

The IVY educated became THE PRIME MINISTER as a thank you token by their British masters.

Not once in their “Freedom struggle” was their life in threat. It was a nicely conducted elegant charade of typical intellectual masturbaters.



It is much more immoral to claim virtue without fully living with its direct consequences.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 184). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

It is very easy to claim virtue, rather difficult to live it.

Read it in conjunction with having a clear conscience is usually a sign of bad memory.

Any time I witness a display of goodness, my antenna for baloney gets activated.

Taleb gives a example of Sontag Vs Ralph Nader, I have an example closer home

Sachin Tendulkar comes to my mind here, those larger than life statements, the entire biopic movie without a single flaw in his fucking personality, turning him into a GOD.

This virtue signalling hero spent a lifetime (eating country’s quota of balls ) in his nineties.

Contrast that with a sehwag, who would hit a Six on 96 or 195 or 294.

Apparently GOD takes a salary from my TAX money for NOT going to rajya sabha. (his basic duty)

And if u r judged by the company u keep, he surely doesn’t hang out with right people I am afraid.

U will NEVER find the real virtue guy (Rahul Dravid) within a 1000 miles of such crony bastards.

It is not a coincidence that no movie is made on real hero yet. Thats a different blog why real heroes (preventive action) are never worshipped, fake (fire fighters) are.

Taleb beautifully sums up that we don’t need virtue signalling charity dinners, what we need are entrepreneurs.

Take risks, courage is the best virtue.

Its Not Charity, if its NOT Anonymous

Nasim sets a high benchmark for humans.

That is the reason he offends everyone.

Think about it, Right hand is not suppose to know what the left hand is doing. By this simple heuristic he has called all charity blabbers as Frauds.

Once again, real life example from my own experience confirms this.

True spirituality is rather tough, a stoic way where u slowly and steadily culminate your wants and desires, easy way out is to follow a ritual. Go 2 a mandir or a gurudwara, recite a few mantras, take a dip in holy waters and get along with your life.

Actual Vs Cheap signalling.

Similarly true ethics entail giving as your duty, not some favor. And there are no brownie points for showcasing your duty. The whole purpose of charity is defeated if your ego got a kick out of it. Remember, you have achieved financial freedom and so now, your mind is craving for higher targets. (fame, legacy, image, philanthropy)

I can link this topic with another important mental model.

Internal score card Vs External scorecard.

The very fact your neighbor knows about your philanthropic endeavors is a give away that you have an external score card. It is important for you that he knows ur good side. What he (world) thinks of you is governing your cheap signalling.

I know of people who have given EVERYTHING to a cause without receiving a mention, NOT ONCE.

Good charity is ALWAYS ANONYMOUS and may I add NOT institutionalized.

religion does not like cheap signalling

.Another interesting thing I learnt in this book is that religion does not like cheap signalling.

You see, going by pascal wager, It makes sense to believe in god rather than not.

Coz if he actually exists, non believers will be screwed 😉 whereas there is no downside for believing,

But so you think. IT IS NOT THE CASE. For religion comes with its own full time commitment, GOD does not like Cheap signalling. You gotta pay the price so to speak. Fasting and sacrificing and can’t sleep with neighbors wife and all those strict rules 😉

Atheists don’t get the difference between metaphor and literal.

wat do u call that rational atheist who tells his 3 year old on Christmas, shut the f up!!! There is no such thing as santa claus

metaphor Vs literal. #idiot.

If a ritual, or belief adds to aesthetic and the spirit of holiday, it is idiotic to remove it, or confront it on logical grounds

Every Diwali, we do pooja, not because of any superstition, but it adds to the overall aesthetics, its a shame that as intelligent person as dawkins wud not understand such a basic thing.


Copy pasting verbaitem, no paraphrasing needed.

WHAT IS RELIGION ABOUT? It is therefore my opinion that religion exists to enforce tail risk management across generations, as its binary and unconditional rules are easy to teach and enforce. We have survived in spite of tail risks; our survival cannot be that random. Recall that skin in the game means that you do not pay attention to what people say, only to what they do, and to how much of their necks they are putting on the line. Let survival work its wonders. Superstitions can be vectors for risk management rules. We have as potent information that people who have them have

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 217). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Soros , squaring of the trade coz his lower back starts acting up in pain.

Call it superstition or whatever. It works.

You survive first and philosophize later. A trader understands this intuitively, a professor and a book writer just can’t.

Psychologists determine our “paranoia” or “risk aversion” by subjecting a person to a single experiment — then declare that humans are rationally challenged, as there is an innate tendency to “overestimate” small probabilities. They manage to believe that their subjects will never ever again take any personal tail risk! Recall from the chapter on inequality that academics in social science are … dynamically challenged. Nobody could see the grandmother-obvious inconsistency of such behavior with our ingrained daily life logic, which is remarkably more rigorous. Smoking a single cigarette is extremely benign, so a cost-benefit analysis would deem it irrational to give up so much pleasure for so little risk! But it is the act of smoking that kills, at a certain number of packs per year, or tens of thousand of cigarettes — in other words, repeated serial exposure.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 226). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Self explanatory, risk aversion is a wonderful thing.

Stock market has positive bias anyways, so as long as u don’t go bust, no matter how irrational a psychologist may call u, all other outcomes are Good.

And therefore ur being risk averse is inbuild mechanism to avoid going bust. You do not have to justify it to a no skin in the game non practicing professor who earns by selling books not taking risks in real world.

No decision is isolated, in real world everything is co related.

I have had this discussion with option writers (crazy leveraged ones) many a times.

If it’s a one off trade, sure u r well within your rights to take such a crazy leveraged bet, but you do that every Thursday for god’s sake. Writing is on the wall, you will GO BUST,PERIOD.

The flaw in psychology papers is to believe that the subject doesn’t take any other tail risks anywhere outside the experiment and, crucially, will never again take any risk at all. The idea in social science of “loss aversion” has not been thought through properly — it is not measurable the way it has been measured (if it is at all measurable). Say you ask a subject how much he would pay to insure a 1 percent probability of losing $ 100. You are trying to figure out how much he is “overpaying” for “risk aversion” or something even more foolish, “loss aversion.” But you cannot possibly ignore all the other financial risks he is taking: if he has a car parked outside that can be scratched, if he has a financial portfolio that can lose money, if he has a bakery that may risk a fine, if he has a child in college who may cost unexpectedly more, if he can be laid off, if he may be unexpectedly ill in the future. All these risks add up, and the attitude of the subject reflects them all. Ruin is indivisible and invariant to the source of randomness that may cause it.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 227). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


Risk aversion is not irrational, infact not being risk averse Is irrational and being STUPID.


Taking personal risks to save the collective are “courage” and “prudence” since you are lowering risks for the collective.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 229). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

It is funny how the 02 worlds meet. Now wat taleb is talking is something I have read in Vedanta treatise.

As narrated in Karma yoga philosophy, true action is one which is done selflessly. The reason has to be bigger than your selfish desires and motives.

The spiritual evolution of a man can be judged by how selfless his actions are, for a greater good without any implicit or subtle individual desires.

The reverse pyramid that taleb drew is how parthasarthy in his book Vedanta treatise showed how individual desires are at the lowest rung followed by your family, your nation and at the top the entire ecosystem and as you evolve as a person, you start moving higher and higher.

Courage is when you sacrifice your own well-being for the sake of the survival of a layer higher than yours. Selfish courage is not courage. A foolish gambler is not committing an act of courage, especially if he is risking other people’s funds or has a family to feed.


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 230). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

What Taleb is calling courage is called gud karma in Vedanta.

And then finally he ended the book with this beautiful cheat sheet

No muscles without strength, friendship without trust, opinion without consequence, change without aesthetics, age without values, life without effort, water without thirst, food without nourishment, love without sacrifice, power without fairness, facts without rigor, statistics without logic, mathematics without proof, teaching without experience, politeness without warmth, values without embodiment, degrees without erudition, militarism without fortitude, progress without civilization, friendship without investment, virtue without risk, probability without ergodicity, wealth without exposure, complication without depth, fluency without content, decision without asymmetry, science without skepticism, religion without tolerance, and, most of all: nothing without skin in the game.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (p. 236). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


Taleb is making a 1000 enemies at once. That is like making a mockery of Life’s work of people like Richard Dawkings and Sam Harris and Steve pinker.

He is backing it up with the maths. It is beyond my limited brain to comprehend who is right. (I am not mathematically gifted)

But what I can say for sure is that Taleb is not a Charlatan. You don’t rub so many people the wrong way unless you have your soul in the game.

You feel so strong about a subject that you are willing to go any distance.

In my book, he is very high on integrity.

I read a review somewhere, someone saying

“The number of people, disciplines and institutions that he thinks are charlatans and fools, is astoundingly vast and his rudeness breathtaking”.

To me that is a biggest indicator of INTEGRITY. He is not hand picking his enemies. He is calling spade a spade.

Anytime his BULLSHIT detector spots it, It beeps. A lot of people would have developed cold feet if they were to rub so many people the wrong way.

But wen u have ur soul in the game, you don’t care.


It is a wonderful Book.